SUDESH VERMA, Member BJP National Media Relations Department, represents BJP as spokesperson on television debates, former journalist and biographer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – ‘Narendra Modi: The Game Changer’.
Faced with a crucial assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh next year, 2022, that may be a great deciding factor for the march to Parliament in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling BJP appears unfazed by opposition tirade against it over various issues including the farmer’s agitation against the farm laws, etc.
Speaking to Dipankar Chakraborty, SUDESH VERMA claims the BJP will come back to power in UP. ‘Vikas is the focus of every election, the image of Prime Minister Modi counts a lot,’ says BJP leader who is also a biographer of PM Narendra Modi. He says despite a poll set back, the BJP is well placed in West Bengal to drive its development agenda.
On the opposition objections to 27 per cent reservation to OBC, he says these parties are wont to link every development issue to elections. He calls the opposition tirade over Pegasus issue hogwash and says it is a part of the toolkit to defame the Modi government at the Centre.
Q. The opposition parties have been trying to corner the BJP over the farmers’ bill. How is your party planning to counter any possible backlash of the ongoing agitation in the next year’s assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh?
A There can’t be backlash of an issue that is going to benefit the farming community. The agitation is being spearheaded by vested interests that do not want farmers to be free from their control. Opposition parties are holding on to supporting them in the hope that they would be able to put the Government in the dock.
We have seen how some farmer leaders running the agitation went to campaign against the BJP in West Bengal. They did not get any traction there. The agitation has become increasingly political and it would not be able to cut much ice with the electorate in Uttar Pradesh.
Q. Did Trinamool Congress victory in West Bengal polls disrupt the BJP’s larger poll calculations for the next Lok Sabha polls? What actually went wrong in the State for your party?
A. The Left and the Congress, the two main political parties in West Bengal, have been decimated since they could not win even one assembly seat in the assembly elections. The BJP which was not considered a serious player with three seats in the last assembly in the State has become the main opposition with 77 seats.
Despite a massive transfer of votes from the Left and the Congress to the Trinamul Congress, the BJP still polled 38 per cent of the popular votes compared to 48 per cent of the Trinamul. Although we could not reach our declared target, the party has all the reasons to be jubilant. The BJP is now there in the State firmly and with the agenda of change and development.
Q. How optimistic are you about the BJP’s development agenda working in the caste, religion and class dominated electoral landscape of Uttar Pradesh in the next year’s assembly polls?
A. These parameters of electoral analysis are there for the media to analyze. In normal times it may work since when people don’t have any major issue to vote for they vote their caste. But since 2014, things have changed and people have been voting for their aspirations for better lives.
Development and faster development have been the buzzword and people have been voting to improve their lives. They want better law and order, better schools and better health care. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been winning their hearts by trying to make the government more responsive and people friendly.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has done wonders by implementing Modi’s development vision. The State Government’s work coupled with Modi’s guarantee on development will return the BJP to power in UP with a bigger majority. Primordial loyalties won’t work.
Q. The government’s decision to give 27 per cent reservation to OBC has been taken keeping in mind the next year’s assembly elections in UP, according to opposition. What is your comment on this?
A. What is good for society must be done. The constitutional amendment that empowers states to notify their own OBC list is the need of the hour. The government has already notified 27 per cent reservations for OBCs in MBBS and Post-Graduation. The country cannot develop without social justice and equity.
Whenever you take such a decision, opposition may like to link it with elections and there is never a time in this country when there are no elections. Should the decision than wait? Are these parties opposing the step? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been working sincerely for uplift of the poor, the OBCs and deprived sections of society.
It was the Modi Government that constituted the National Commission for Backward Classes in 2017 and then gave it an extension in 2020 to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes.
Q. Will the BJP be contesting the coming assembly elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, in consonance with its past practice of not declaring its chief ministerial candidates for each state going to polls?
A. There is no set rule in the party. Depending on the political situation, the party has not announced its chief ministerial candidate. Actually, the entire party is involved in contesting elections. Since Vikas [development] is the focus of every election, the image of Prime Minister Modi counts a lot.
While each State has its own development focus and initiatives, the overall focus is on implementation of the various schemes launched by the Central Government for benefit of the poor and the deprived.
Q. What is the BJP’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan from India’s national security point of view?
A. The entire world must wake up to the humanitarian crisis emanating from Taliban takeover over of Afghanistan. India’s focus as of present is to evacuate its national stranded in Afghanistan and also to ease the issue of Afghan nationals coming to India due to the crisis there. India has been a trusted friend of Afghanistan and it wants peace and stability there. The Government is keenly monitoring the developments there.
Q. Is the government planning to do anything to resolve the impasse over farmers’ agitation demanding scrapping of farm laws?
A. The government is keen to end the impasse and has never closed its doors on those who want to talk. The problems come when you put conditions that are unacceptable. Parliament has passed the laws with best of intentions and nothing is being imposed on anyone. If you don’t want to take the route of the new laws you can opt out of these.
But one cannot say that you don’t have an enabling legislation for those who wish to make their lives better. Those agitating have floated rumours about MSP [Minimum Support Price]. The recent experience shows that the Government has spent more money under MSP to buy Kharif and Rabi crops. One cannot create imagined fear and make that the basis of agitation.
The Central government held 11 rounds of talks with representatives of agitating farmers to break the deadlock and has clarified that it is ready to talk to them again.
Q. What are the likely threats of Taliban militants in Jammu and Kashmir especially in the light of reports suggesting their increasing presence in PoK?
A. India is competent to fight its battle against terrorism of any kind. The government is on alert and the security forces are on alert. People should trust and leave such matters to the Government.
Q. We find PM Modi often complaining about delays in implementation of development projects. Does it have to do with a possible lack of synergy between the political executive and the bureaucracy?
A. Our Prime Minister is a hard task master and he is result oriented. For development vision to translate into field the delivery mechanism must act faster. Indian bureaucracy is a huge organization and the most effective mechanism to take various government schemes to people. While this is working quite well there is always room for improvement.
The Prime Minister’s comment should be seen in that context. He understands and articulates the aspirations of the people of this country. While the political leadership gives overall sense of direction, it is the bureaucracy that has to transform policy into action. And the bureaucracy must match the fast changing world where most services are increasingly getting IT driven.
Q. What are the BJP’s plans to plug the organisational loopholes ahead of the coming assembly polls early and late 2022?
A. The BJP is a well-oiled organization that is constantly striving to maximize performance. Elections are definitely testing times. The training of workers and programmes go on throughout the year. The party’s biggest strength is the panna[a group of 500-1000 people in a booth] level organization, which is at the level of voters.
If our pannalevel organization works well, the party’s overall pyramid works quite well, too. Of course, during election times, visits by central leaders to an election bound State increases and becomes more obvious due to media glare. The same goes unnoticed during normal times. All these help to get to the countdown.
Q. Opposition parties have already started speaking of putting a common fight against Modi in 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Does this not scare the BJP?
A. The opposition is chasing a mirage. Any opposition unity bereft of ideology other than to fight the BJP will not carry any conviction with people. Actually the choice will be clear for people. Who are these people? People tainted in corruption, those who were voted to power once but did not work to ameliorate the plight of the poor and those who are hurt by a Modi upsurge.
Most of them are on their last leg of political roadmap and they know that another term for Modi would bring an end to their less than glorious innings in politics. They are fighting not driven by public interest but are fighting their own respective battles of survival. None can stop the Modi juggernaut in 2024.
Q. The Modi government is accused of muzzling opposition and the press such as lodging cases against important leaders and snooping such as in Pegasus controversy?
A. Should a law be made in the country that no investigation be done against those who were in power since there can be allegation of political vendetta? Intelligence and other agencies work on the feedback they get. To talk of vendetta is poor politics, for example the cases against Mr Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald Case. This came out due to effort of one individual person and the court has taken cognizance of this.
When a case comes up, political leaders should face it bravely and subject themselves before the law rather than trying to make the issue political. They should trust the judiciary and other institutions that have delivered justice. The entire Pegasus issue appears to be hogwash and a part of the toolkit to defame this government. Inquiry would reveal the truth. Facts will cut through fiction like a hot knife through butter.